MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

March 26, 2013

Oktaha schools seek $1.8M bond

Money would fund new gym, classrooms, repairs, new equipment

— New high school classrooms and an elementary school gym make up the brunt of a $1.8 million bond issue at Oktaha Public Schools.

Voters will decide on the issue Tuesday.

The district is asking for the money for construction, repairing and remodeling buildings, purchasing furniture and equipment and acquiring and improving school sites, according to a sample ballot provided by the Muskogee County Election Board.

Superintendent Jerry Needham said the two main projects the bond will fund is building a gymnasium for elementary students and adding six classrooms to the high school.

“We’ve made enough payments on our 2007 bond issue that allows us to add this bond issue with minimal cost to our voters,” Needham said. “This bond issue will raise property taxes, but only $2 for every $100 you paid in taxes last year.”

For a homeowner who pays $1,000 a year in property taxes, the bill will go up a total of about $20, he said. For someone paying $500 a year, the tax bill will be $10 larger.

Needham said the gym and classrooms are important to the district of 775 students, which grows an average of 20 to 25 students each year.

“We have portable buildings here at the high school and we’re going to eliminate those and construct six new classrooms,” Needham said. “And one of those will be an (information technology) room where we hope to offer interactive television course for college credit.”

Those buildings have been there since at least 1986, he said. Oktaha’s student council secretary Clayton Fulton, 16, said offering courses with college credit is a “great opportunity.”

“As a small school we are somewhat limited on what we can offer to advanced students and offering that concurrent enrollment will also help with those who can’t drive from here to the nearest college daily to get some college credit,” he said. “It’s a great idea.”

The gymnasium for the elementary students is also something Fulton said kids would like to have.

When Fulton was in elementary school, he said they had physical education — on the playground — about half the year and spent the other half indoors watching movies because of inclement weather.

Needham said the new gym will help with two issues — security and fully giving younger students and those who don’t participate in extracurricular sports a full physical education program.

“The biggest thing with the kids having P.E. outside is that we can’t secure them, and I hate to say we live in that kind of time but you shouldn’t hold class on the playgrounds,” Needham said.

Needham said the district has taken a lot of security measures since the shooting in Connecticut in December, including bulletproof glass being installed at the entrances to the elementary and the high school, buzzer systems at the entrances, and all other outside exits equipped with a key pad for entry.

“But we need some help in securing our elementary P.E. students,” he said.

Oktaha’s last bond issue overwhelmingly passed in 2007 with 95 percent of voters approving the $1.15 million issue.

That bond issue funded the construction of a larger cafeteria to replace a 35-year-old cafeteria built when the district had only a third of the students it does now.

Needham said there was enough money left from that project to build a stage on one end of the cafeteria that students use almost daily.

“I’d say these projects are what we want to do, but if the bids come in lower, and we can make it better, we will,” Needham said.

The 2007 bond issue did not raise the tax rate.

Reach Wendy Burton at (918) 684-2926 or wburton@muskogeephoenix.com.

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